Before we begin carving this turkey, GOOD NEWS! There will be many turkeys to come! A thousand thank-yous to reader Laura, who mailed me DVDs of nearly every Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from 1986 through the moment I started saving them myself. There are still a few gaps.....namely 1982(I'm told no one has '82), 1983-1985, 1990, 1992, and 1998-2001. But we've come this far, so the others have to be out there. Let's also thank YouTuber "Major League Pong Gods," the source of the DVD collection and the owner of a vastly coveted selection of Macy's material, most of which you can view minus commercials and a few bits of licensed music the bots didn't care for. My copies are uncut.
Since the 1982 and 1983 parades are still MIA, we've arrived at the point in Macy's Parade history that Matt Caracappa already discussed in detail. I realize this was a long time ago and any imaginary statute of limitations has most likely expired. Though the articles are still online, X-E's main index has disappeared and most of you won't remember the exact wording of his take, or even have read it at all....but I'm still hesitant to cover a parade he covered, simply due to feelings of inferiority. Matt was a Word God and nothing I say about the parade can ever measure up to the kind of Metahuman wit he had. If reviewing was food, Matt would be the highly renowned Paris chef whose meals have to be reserved 3 years in advance. Every time I read something Matt wrote, even if the subject matter is as blase as his laundry list, I usually wind up laughing to the point of tears. ....I should really stop talking him up or you're going to Google his Macy's Parade stuff and realize how bad I am in comparison. Don't do that.
But, like I said, I would think ten-plus years is a long enough span of time. What do you think: would you like to see me cover the Macy's Parades Matt already did back when George W. Bush was in his first term? Let me know on Facebook or in the forums. I was going to make this decision for you and cover 1986 this year, but then while thumbnailing my way through the first minute of the 1988 Parade (which Matt skipped) I hit this screenshot by pure chance:
Yup, this is the one we want. 1988 it is!
The days of Ed McMahon hosting are over forever; we're now in the Willard Scott era. The Today Show weatherman was the anchor for all the late 80's parades, along with a string of female co-hosts that rotated quickly. This year, it's Sandy Duncan of New Scooby Doo Movies fame (Randy Runcan!) Sandy starts out by calling this current gig of hers "the highlight of my career," and that's being awfully harsh on her Wheat Thins commercials. But she's actually referring to the fact that her two children had their minds blown by the fact that she's hosting the parade, and really do think she's landed the biggest job in the world, and therefore, she thinks so too.
|Speaking of touchy-feely moments, McDonalds ran their usual amount of 60-second stories about little kids overcoming problems and families hugging and so forth -- they're all over the ad breaks, as they were during every single ad break of every 1980's Macy's Parade and every single family-oriented network special ever broadcast between 1975 and 1991. They used to go really heavy-duty with this kind of gimmick; not so much anymore. Perhaps with all the bad press McDonalds has gotten lately, they've just given up trying to fool people. In this first one, an old man thinks his buddies forgot his birthday, until two staff members approach with a candle on top of an Egg McMuffin (seriously).|
NBC has claimed exclusive dibs on Parade coverage for quite a long time, and the privilege allows them to throw a little weight from time to time and get their shows promoted in the parade itself. I hear this year we'll be getting a float starring the actors from their live version of the musical "The Wiz," presumably in costume. This should get the same amount of blank stares from the crowd as that time the Skeleton Warriors appeared in 1994 (I've got that year now, it's coming). In 1988 one of NBC's highest-rated shows was Night Court, and lo and behold, one of the first sights of the broadcast is Harry Anderson riding into Herald Square.
Harry has some giant playing cards -- two Kings and a Queen. He then turns then on their backs, shuffles them lazily and asks Willard to pick one. He did a bad shuffling job so Willard would know which one had to be the Queen, but when he picks the obvious choice, it's magically changed into one of the Kings. Harry shuffles two more times and the cards somehow change suits on their own again and again. Finally Willard says "Forget it, you don't play fair," and Harry responds with "That's too bad, I was going to let you win this time," and reveals every card is now a Queen. The right side of the audience was amazed; the left side of the audience could see exactly how the trick was done.
I don't follow Broadway or the stage scene, so I can't really add anything to what is typically shown in the first hour of parade coverage....and I usually skip it anyway. One of the acts that performed this year was "Forbidden Broadway," a spoof musical parodying the other Broadway acts popular at the time. I had NO hope of understanding this one; there was no way for me to get most of the inside humor. I did get a chort at a 30-year-old Little Orphan Annie, still sporting a bright red curly afro while smoking a cigarette.
Now it's time for a woman tap-dancing with a man in a bad panda costume while singing "Panda, panda, panda, panda, panda" over and over. Finally, I've been waiting for this all day! I don't know who Chantal Goya is or what she became famous for. Was it this? (To all you "helpful" readers, please don't write and tell me the actual answer. It was probably this.)
This performance was four minutes long. I've uploaded just the last two minutes, but the first two were mostly the same. Also, this video is blocked from viewing in Germany for some reason. Chantal is from France. Dumb bots.
|The most fascinating thing about browsing Macy's Parade history is watching the evolution of toys. You can count on the hottest toys from that year appearing during the ad breaks of every Macy's. Video games appeared all the way back in the 1980 parade, but they were ultra-primitive beeping handheld devices. We're now in the Nintendo era, and guess what just came out: the Power Pad. That was the floor mat with the giant button designs you were supposed to stomp on, though most kids just sat on the floor and used their hands. The kids in the ad, though, are sure pumped to use it the correct way. "You ARE the game! You've got BODY POWER!" Nintendo boasts. Why didn't they stick with that phrase back when Sega was throwing shade? It would have been a great counter-ad to Blast Processing: "The Super Nintendo has Body Power. The Genesis doesn't."|
|Those LED things shouldn't have a prayer by now, yet here's one still hanging on. "Starting Lineup Talking Baseball" is the kind of beeping confusing device 1980 was full of, albeit much larger in size than the handheld games that came out at the beginning of the decade. I have no idea how you're supposed to play this game, and the ad gives me no hints, focusing mostly on a real baseball game instead.|
|You know what came out in 1988? Tom Hanks' movie Big, as well as two other films with the same plot. Children inhabiting adult bodies was an unexpected trend. What wasn't a surprise was the demand for giant keyboards you can play with your feet. They weren't a product before Big came out, but toy companies knew they would have to exist that Christmas or else. 1988 couldn't provide the technology to accurately reduce the sounds made by the Big keyboard to an affordable price, so the imitations just made primitive "nerk derk" noises. The ad for "Foot Notes" does its best to disguise this by adding flashing lights, a screaming crowd and a man singing about how mindblowing Foot Notes are.|
|NO! If I could only go back in time
and prevent THIS ad from airing! Do NOT get interested in
the Radio Shack Color Computer, kids! It can barely do
the things shown in the ad! It's a worthless piece of
Back to McDonalds....they would give you a giant Muppet Babies plush for two bucks with any meal. Also, Kermit's awkwardness around Piggy started at an early age.
The first balloon of the 1988 Parade was Garfield, and they hyped him up so much that I thought this had to be his first appearance. A little research told me it was not, but Willard was sure into Garfield this year. But hey, who wasn't? It was his tenth anniversary; there were TV specials and tons of merchandise and the world debut of Garfield and Friends. The only people who don't look into Garfield are the miserable guys in these degrading outfits:
This year's guest on the hump of the Robot Turkey was country singer Tanya Tucker. It's at this point that Willard gets in the kind of zinger you can only say live: "Here's Tanya with the NBC Sales Department theme song, 'Highway Robbery'!" After having to deal with Harry AND the preacher from "AMEN" later, I guess you can't blame him.
The cast of Sesame Street never misses the parade. Normally they arrive in an elaborate float recreating every building on Sesame Street in one complicated glorious mashup. This year, though, they went cheap and came to Herald Square in a clumsy tin rocket. All cast members are accounted for, and they look cramped in there. Perhaps their decoration budget went to Maria and Luis's wedding instead.
That's nice, I didn't need to sleep tonight anyway. And this sight has to come mere hours after I saw a Robot Chicken sketch involving the Archie characters, where they looked pretty much like this and spent the whole sketch having sex with each other (I think I'm done with Robot Chicken, and I just started watching two weeks ago).
The Spider-Man balloon is held down by web-looking tethering, which is pretty clever. Mr. Parker was followed by the Marvel Universe float, which made multiple appearances through the late 80's Parades. They've got some impressive star power here: besides the people representing the superheroes, several gold medal winners from the 1988 Summer Olympics were guests of the float, as well as the Harlem Boy's Choir. A nine-year-old with no front teeth stepped forward and started lip-synching "One Moment In Time" in this off-puttingly deep voice. I didn't know this song was out yet -- Mom's radio didn't become polluted with cheesy Whitney Houston ballads until 1990.
No balloon was in worse condition than Shamu, which kind of hung there in midair half-deflated, fin-tail drooping pathetically. Willard calls Shamu female, which I don't think is right (I've seen an animated Shamu appear in Sea World ads and he clearly had a male voice). I guess this doesn't matter anyway; Sea World has taken a ton of heat lately from a public that no longer tolerates the imprisonment of large aquatic mammals in little containers for amusement. They said they were terminating the killer whale show, but that's easier said than done. That should leave them with several ultra-domesticated killer whales that sport no survival skills whatsoever. Shamu himself was born in captivity.
Here's a sight the McDonalds corporation almost never shows you: Ronald McDonald's crotch. Because of the strange way he was positioned this year (head to the ground, feet in the air), this was the obscene result from the opposite end. Willard never missed the opportunity, whenever Ronald showed up, to mention he was the original Ronald first hired by McDonalds when they invented the character. Ronald began floating down the street before the commercial break; when it came back we got this view. Willard said nothing.
Now this was pretty cool. Not just the Pink Panther balloon (it was one of my favorites as a kid) but the actual appearance of Friz Freleng down on the street below him. Willard mentions the Panther was 15 years old in 1988. Yes, Sandy is still hosting too, but they gave Willard all the informative lines; Sandy got stuck with the extra prattle.
Another repeat float throughout the late 80's was the Barbie float. It was the same design no matter what was on it. In 1987 Barbie's Jem-ripoff band Barbie and the Rockers rode it; now it's Barbie and the Sensations, which looks to be a 50's throwback band. "Let me show you all how to BOP! BOP!" Barbie sings. Please don't.
It was at this point when Arleen Sorkin showed up, and this is another of those cases where someone got into the parade purely for network promotional reasons. At the time, Arleen was playing Calliope Jones on Days Of Our Lives -- yes, she played a clown, and Paul Dini was watching. Harley Quinn was inspired by Calliope, and Dini cast Sorkin as the character, and the rest is history. Here she is in very weird clothes along with Harry Groener from Dear John, another NBC show by no coincidence.
There's a bit of lip-synch failure here, but that's not the biggest problem....the real issue is that I'm not certain this is actually a recording of Sorkin. We've heard her sing; bring up the Batman episode "Harlequinade" and listen to "Say That We're Sweethearts Again," then to this. Sounds completely different, doesn't it? Harley wasn't a fake voice; Arleen really has that nasal New York Jew tone to her. These pipes should sound straight out of Brooklyn but they don't. I smell shenanigans!
I thought Matt was exaggerating when he spoke of the Snuggle Bear balloon sporting burning red eyes of death, but....it's actually true. There was no photo manipulation, Snuggle Bear really has RED EYES, I swear to God, BURNING RED EYES! He's not as scary as Archie's gaping mouth, though. The reason for this stylistic choice is lost on me.
Now this is something the younger generations will never know....daytime TV the day after Thanksgiving was often devoted to children's cartoons (when it wasn't being devoted to football). This ad, which I didn't upload because the YouTube bots are especially vicious this year, is a slideshow of NBC's Saturday Morning lineup, which was now the Friday Morning Lineup for one day only. For a time, Thanksgiving Weekend was also when syndication would be full of the failed cartoon pilots that no one bought from the previous season (I wish this was still the case). It's how the Bubsy and Battletoads "specials" got out.
|You would think I'd remember some of these ads, but they're all new to me....except for this one. This Turbo Racing Train rang a foggy, distant bell. I must have seen it and wanted it BAD. It's presented masterfully....how can any boy not desire a toy train that runs a zillion miles an hour and defies gravity several times? It doesn't even need a track at one point! I never got one.|
|Every year there's a couple sponsors
that take up a larger amount of space than the others,
and this year, the award goes to Isotoner for repeating
these three ads throughout the Parade...and boy, are they
strange. There's this dog with bionic ears, and then
there's this guy who admits he has eight girlfriends and
needs to buy gloves for all of them, then flirts with the
clerk by saying he might need "an extra pair."
Isotoner: the choice for STD carriers everywhere!
The one with the little girl is best left as a surprise.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that every single variety show, special, and parade in the late 70's and early 80's had an appearance from at least one person with the last name "Osmond." By 1988 that law had been repealed, but here they are trying to stoke a dead log by introducing "The Osmond Boys," a second generation of kids from the family who all look to be about five and a half years old. They're on a dream-themed float from Days Inn, so they sort-of-dance to a wretched hip-hop cover of "Mister Sandman." How much longer could they drag this out? And why was this family that popular to begin with? I don't think it's a Kardashian thing since they're not train wrecks.
Here's another person you'll be seeing a lot as we go through 80's Parades: Jill Schulz, daughter of Charles Schulz. She was an ice skater, and Sparky was proud enough of his baby girl that he cleared float space in several Macy's parades and built a fully functional ice rink on it just so she could skate there in the middle of New York. She was also rotoscoped in the 1980 special "She's A Good Skate, Charlie Brown" where they drew Peppermint Patty over her movements.
This version of the Snoopy balloon had appeared in previous Parades, but this year they added his bird friend. Woodstock, true to form, was moving erratically. Not sure if that was intentional.
The Radio City Rockettes were the last act before Santa Claus in 1981. By 1988 that placement had not changed, though there's one more marching band between them and the Big Man. What's the perfect way to leave everyone satisfied? About fifty kicking legs should be enough, but no, it needs something extra. The final shot of their performance is a track shot of every Rockette dancing past the camera, and at the end of the human tunnel: Willard Scott in a triumphant pose.
I can't tell you what Parade will be covered next -- whether it'll be 1986 or 1991, or if 1982 will turn up between then and now. What I do know is as long as they keep making new Macy's Parades, I should have a strong enough backlog to keep reviewing them into infinity. See you in a year.
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